THE decision by English rock musician Julian Cope to pull out of a gig in Belfast due to security concerns has been branded "an utter disgrace".
Broadcaster, former NME assistant editor and current Oh Yeah Centre music chief Stuart Bailie told the Belfast Telegraph that Cope's decision was appalling.
Organisers of the Out To Lunch Festival were left stunned when they received an email advising them that Cope would not perform at the Black Box in the Cathedral Quarter next month because of the "current security situation in Belfast".
A statement from the musician said: "It is with regret that I feel obliged to cancel my forthcoming Belfast show of January 16 due to the current security situation there and the logistics involved.
"I'm very sorry about this."
Cope's decision follows an escalation in attacks in recent months by dissident republicans opposed to the peace process, including a series of bomb attacks in Belfast city centre.
However, Bailie (right) is not impressed with the decision.
"It's an utter disgrace," he said.
"In Northern Ireland terms things are incredibly calm."
The Oh Yeah chief said Cope's comments to the festival had "angered" him.
"Julian Cope has presented himself to the world as this fearless, intrepid and bold human being," he added.
"His decision is appalling and I don't think other artists and bands will follow suit.
"It feels like a cop-out and my heart goes out to the festival team, but we'll live without him and think twice about celebrating his music in the future."
Out To Lunch director Sean Kelly gave his reaction to Cope's decision.
"It came out of the blue," he said.
"We've been organising festivals in Belfast for 15 years and we've never lost an artist due to the security situation.
"We were slightly taken aback by the email.
"We asked him to reconsider several times over the last week but he's made his decision and is sticking to it."
Mr Kelly said he would have to take Mr Cope's word that he was genuinely concerned for this own safety.
"I suppose you have to look at it from an outsiders view," he said.
"The recent bomb attacks at St Anne's Square and Cornmarket were playing out, and they are relatively close to the Black Box.
"We simply have to accept he is genuinely concerned for his safety."
Mr Kelly said it is hoped that another performer will be signed up to fill the vacancy on the festival schedule.
"It's kind of knocked the heart out of it," he added.
"I would hate to see the Black Box dark on the night. I don't want them to lose sales, so we will think about it over Christmas and hopefully come up with inspired ideas for a replacement."
Anyone who had purchased tickets for the gig by credit/debit card will be automatically be refunded and those who paid by cash should obtain a refund from the Visit Belfast office.
Julian Cope is an outspoken English rock musician, author and cultural commentator. He came to prominence in the 1970s as the singer with The Teardrop Explodes. Their most popular albums were Kilimanjaro and Wilder.
They had top 30 hits with Treason and Reward. Cope has followed a solo career since the 1980s. His best known albums include Peggy Suicide and Jehovah Kill.